A fire that engulfed the Yuengling brewery in Tampa, Florida Saturday night lit up the sky and caused much drama but the brewery will be open for business Monday morning. $1 million in damage was caused to the walls and ceilings of the facility that employs about 70 people. Ironically, the fire may have accidentally been caused by a welder replacing an old fire escape on the 1950s-era brewery near Busch Gardens.
Jim Helmke, Yuengling’s director of operations says the damage was confined and repairable, fortunately. “The fire itself was very dramatic and very frightening,” He said. “But none of the beer, none of the product was jeopardized at all. Nothing will prevent us from operating normally. Nobody here will lose an hour of work over this. It could have been much worse. We’re very fortunate.”
Helmke speculates that the old wooden beams in the wall were heated by the welding and began smoldering. It may have gone on smolder unnoticed for several hours before it ignited. The timbers in the walls are 50 years old, he said. Founded in 1829, D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. considers itself United States’ oldest brewer, with an additional brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Stroh Brewing Co. operated the Tampa facility until it was purchased in 1999.
About 8 pm Saturday night, firefighters arrived at the building to find one side and a section of the roof in flames. They could not get at the fire from the inside of the building, so two ladder trucks doused the flames from the outside while a helicopter provided aerial guidance. Sixty firefighters responded to the alarm and it was brought under control by 9 pm. Two Yuengling employees working that night were uninjured. One firefighter suffered minor injuries.
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